In 2000 I was commissioned to write my first guidebook update for Lonely Planet. Yes, that’s (ahem) 15 years ago.
I undertook my initial guidebook-writing stint while I was still working as a full-time editor for Lonely Planet, after I was accepted as a potential author (after submitting a writing sample and jumping through the hoops all wannabe LP authors had to jump through). My first assignment: the Greek islands. Yeah! Who could turn that down?
I remember the trip being a mad dash through approximately 20 islands in something like six weeks. It was crazy but it was glorious: blue skies, undecipherable ferry timetables, dazzling white villages and the beginning of a love affair with chargrilled octopus. I ranged all over the Aegean Sea, from Mykonos to Crete to Lesvos and Skopelos. I remember joining a lovely local family on Santorini for their Greek Easter feast; swooning over the unique architecture in Symi, Chios and Hania; walking through a stunning gorge in Crete; and drinking too much retsina on a dolphin-spotting cruise out of Alonnisos. I fondly recall the warmth of the Greeks, who all seemed to have a brother/cousin/uncle living in Melbourne.
I came home from the trip and quit my desk job soon after, deciding that the freedom of freelancing and the lure of travel-writing were far too irresistible. In the years following that first gig, I returned to Greece a few more times to research more comprehensive guidebooks (at a considerably calmer pace).
Fifteen years on, that first Greece trip has provided me with a nice dose of nostalgia as I prepare for another Greek odyssey: I leave soon for a research assignment to the Cyclades group – this includes headliner islands like Mykonos and Santorini, but also some wee specks on the map I can’t wait to investigate. There’ll be 24 islands over two months, with lots of ferry-hopping and octopus-eating. There will no doubt be an abundance of whitewashed villages, cobbled laneways filled with bougainvillea, hotel infinity pools, and crystal-clear waters lapping glorious sandy beaches. I can’t wait.